Let’s be honest. Christmas is about celebrations and parties. Who are we kidding? The connection between the birth of Christ in Luke 2 and the celebration stories of Luke 15 may not be so obvious to all, but it should be. The “lost” stories are all about excitement and celebration. No matter what you may have heard, Jesus did know how to party! He came from heaven and heaven is the place to find the greatest parties. Jesus’ used three easily related stories to convey just how great those parties really are.
So what does a real party entail? Several things. First, there must be a great occasion. Jesus told about the kind of celebration to which we can all relate. When something very precious is lost the ache is severe! Losing that one sheep (15.4ff.), that one silver coin (15.8ff.), that only other son (15.11ff.) really hurt! We all know how compulsive a quest can be when we are determined to recover something or someone. It takes over our thoughts and our lives. Discovery brings incredible relief, joy and excitement. Happiness abounds. In fact, the joy of reclaiming something lost is exponentially greater than the great grief associated with the loss! The loss was a significant part of a larger whole (one one hundredth, one tenth, or even one half). But finding that one is actually 100 percent victory. Exuberant gladness is felt and recovery is intensely celebrated!
Secondly, celebration comes to its own in a party. In each story, friends are called together to capture the excitement and rejoice together. Intense happiness cannot be kept to one’s self. Great joy must be shared and in the sharing is magnified. Celebration finds fullness in the company of others. Perhaps some readers eschew parties and avoid them. But the reality is that the desire for great celebratory parties is actually embedded in the image of God in man. It is encoded in the stuff that makes us men and women. The celebrations that Jesus talked about were intended to make the parties of heaven visible to his listeners. Heaven’s celebrations are greater, more numerous, more lavish and occasioned by things most significant.
Most would allow that there is something missing in most of our parties and celebrations: an important person chooses not to participate, cost prohibits appropriate provisions, etc. But we were designed for eternity. We rightly yearn for unending delights. Yet none of us can sustain such a celebration. We do not even have the stamina to party “all night long.” “Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall …. (Is 40.30).”
So what are the celebrations of heaven that relate to our Christmas joys? Jesus in Luke 15.7 speaks of “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” Children coming home over Christmas brighten our lives. Very special times that will be cherished ensue. But the return of a prodigal son brings a different kind of intense joy! The older son had been there all along. But the prodigal “was lost and is found!” Redemption changes things forever. It makes for a wonderful Christmas party. God providing an infant Savior in Bethlehem is a big part of a big plan. The cross is big too! But their significance does not stand alone. Both Jesus’ birth and cross are works which enable the repentant sinner to come home, but come home he must! When he does, the whole plan comes together. Jesus knew that heaven explodes with joy when sinners turn in repentance. It is a great and miraculous event! Leopards don’t change their spots. Yet sinners do repent and return home. God’s purposes and plans unfold. Redemption is accomplished!
This Christmas join heaven’s celebration and party with the angels! Have a very merry Christmas! We have the only reason we need!
Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church
(Originally published in March 2015 Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi (Republished by permission)